ST. ANDRE, REUNION ISLAND — Boeing investigators are confident that debris found on a remote island in the Indian Ocean comes from a 777 aircraft, according to a source close to the investigation.
An international team of aviation experts is trying to determine if that airplane part comes from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 that disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
A match might help solve the mystery of what happened to that airplane since no other 777s in the world are unaccounted for, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an online database of flight incidents.
People cleaning a beach found the debris Wednesday on Reunion, a French overseas territory in the western Indian Ocean.
The source said Boeing investigators feel confident the piece comes from a 777 because of photos that have been analyzed and a stenciled number that corresponds to a 777 component. A component number is not the same as a part number, which is generally much longer.
mages of the debris also appear to match schematic drawings for the right wing flaperon from a Boeing 777. A flaperon helps the pilot control the aircraft. It is lightweight and has sealed chambers, making it buoyant.
Despite this confidence, no one is saying the part definitely comes from a 777, much less MH370.
The plane debris will be transported to France on Friday evening, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office said. Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said the piece will arrive in Paris on Saturday and will be sent to Toulouse, the site of the nearest office of the BEA, the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations.
Finding the debris is a “significant development” in the search for MH370, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.
New debris, which washed ashore Thursday and appears to resemble remnants of a suitcase, is also part of the investigation, Reunion Island police officials confirmed to CNN.
The flight vanished March 8, 2014, en route to Beijing. So far, no confirmed trace of it has been found, making it one of history’s biggest aviation mysteries and leaving relatives of passengers and crew members uncertain about the fate of their loved ones.